Another Snapshot of a Blinkered Institution


We found ourselves together–the priests of the diocese. We get together for a couple days every October, for our annual Priests’ Convocation.

Every October we sing the same hymns at our prayers. Every October the bishop spends forty minutes talking to us about himself. Every October a professional traveling speaker bores us unto truancy.

Same this year. Everything proceeded exactly as it always does. The eerie air of normalcy has driven me insane.

In our parishes, no one trusts anyone in the hierarchy–other than the parish pastor. Our most-dedicated volunteers wonder: What kind of future does our Church have? Outside the Church, our institution has become a byword for hypocrisy and corruption. And the Catholic people continue to wonder: Do we know how to deal with sex abuse? Does anyone pay attention to the victims? Will anyone in authority ever answer our questions honestly? Or give an account for their own actions or omissions?

Our people have these questions. And we have land-mined our own mission field with suspicion and doubt. The Church with the duty to proclaim God’s truth to the world has entered into a period of moral receivership. State Attorneys General provide the kind of oversight that our own bishops have spent the past forty years failing to exercise. International pressure on the Vatican–to make its secrets known–mounts; a diplomatic crisis looms.

No one in the hierarchy offers any answers. We parish priests hang out there to dry, trying to do our thing, holding fast to the mysteries of the faith…

We had a chance to talk all this over. We didn’t. We could have heard our bishop’s plan for how to help us through this. He doesn’t have one.

What exactly is the crisis? Are schismatics trying to break down the communion of Christ’s Church? Will the pope have to resign because too many people lose confidence in his honesty? Is there a Gay Mafia operating at high levels? How can we get past this endless scandal?

We had a golden opportunity to talk these questions over, here at the Diocesan Priests’ Convocation. We did not take that opportunity.

What do we really stand for, at this point? Does a Catholic parish priest represent a worldwide institution that people can believe in? Do we ourselves, we priests, believe in this institution? Do we have any confidence that the pope and bishops will co-operate and solve the ‘problem?’ Do we think the pope and bishops understand what the problem is?

Talk it over together? Try to identify the problem? Not this October.

Theodore McCarrick’s “incoherence” as a priest and as a man (to use Card. Ouellet’s word)–McCarrick’s incoherence–it is in the process of corroding the mutual trust of dozens of bishops, hundreds of priests, and thousands of Catholics. Our institution operates on the currency of mutual trust. That mutual trust is corroding. This is in the process of happening.

We had a chance to talk it all over together. We didn’t. We carried on like a cancer patient who refuses to discuss the diagnosis.

Cancer rages in our organs. We carried on as if it were just another October.

Dear faithful people, please forgive us. You deserve braver priests than this.

Our traveling professional speaker referred at one point to Christ’s gaze. I feel His gaze. And I am ashamed. Of the blinkered, irrational institutional ‘normalcy’ of which I am a part.


11 thoughts on “Another Snapshot of a Blinkered Institution

  1. Fr. Mark,
    No apology is necessary from you and frankly I don’t want one from anyone in the hierarchy of our church. I feel you pain and frustration deeply and wish I could take this burden from you. Stay strong and true as you always have been, and Jesus and Our Blessed Mother will bring you and all the truly faithful through this dark night. I believe that and I don’t care what I hear or what I see. This is a time of prayer, fasting, penance and repentance. By the way Fr. Mark, you are awesome!

  2. Hard to believe, Father Mark. What are they (the hierarchy) thinking? If they think they can sweep things under the carpet consistently and without profound repercussions, I believe they are mistaken. As usual, we pray for wisdom and fidelity for all clergy.
    Let’s see what they come up with in the Youth Synod. I’m afraid to hear.
    Trust is waning but not ever with Jesus Christ as we position ourselves at his feet.

  3. Cancer , whether it is in your body, soul or church ought never be ignored. As a melanoma patient who has had numerous melanomas over the last twenty or more years, I long ago adopted the following mantra “Early detection and surgical removal” is a winning strategy. It is obvious to the most casual observer that the church has a cancer, but unfortunately as you say the patient is willing to ignore it in the hopes that it will go away. Unfortunately it has already metastasized, and there is no surgeon willing to excise the rot before the patient dies. I applaud your courage in adhering to the truth, and being a Good Shepherd.

    The dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies continues.

  4. God bless you father mark… I’m sorry the bishop wasn’t inclined to have band share a plan,,,I pray that you and the others in a similar position can hang in there… the road may well get more bumpy… you are always in my prayers…

  5. Well now we know we have cancer, and we need to accept the Fact it is of long standing without our taking it seriously. I choose to face it and fight it with “The Weapon” as Padre Pio called the Rosary, the very prayer Our Lady has asked us to pray daily lo these centuries. SHE has said that Each well prayed Ave is a severe blow to the Evil One! Put a ‘string of them together and a mob of us at it and we the laity can side our Faithful Clergy in this very real battle for Holy Church. Just because the Evil One has and has long had It’s toadies in hierarchy in no way means the Good News is diminished or that Our Lord has left town! What do we think “Church Militant” means? What choice will we individually make when to be Faith Filled in Christ will be severely punished by great marginalization and even death? The Time of Great Distress Our Lord spoke of is Not a metaphor but a very real event on our horizon!

  6. I agree with Alex, “Fr. Mark, you are awesome!”
    As I understand it, no one is to question the Bishops, etc. about what is happening. The priests in the parishes are the ones who have to respond to the people of the parish. Why should they not hear in person from their Bishop about this “unholy mess” and be allowed to share concerns openly. I imagine many are afraid of the possible consequences of being so open.
    My “3-points” letter to the Bishop has been sent, with the full understanding that he may never see it. Yet I sent it because I believed it was the right thing to do. I am of no importance to the Diocese so it costs me nothing to express my concerns and a suggestion that meetings be held where the voices and concerns of the laity could be heard from the laity themselves.
    You, Fr. Mark, have done and said what you believe is the right thing to do and say. I pray for you, and any other priests brave enough to speak out. I also pray for those who are silent, for whatever reason.
    I at first did believe that changes would be made. Now, I want to believe that changes will be made, that the hierarchy will understand the need for a new way of handling such abuse, but I have no confidence that it will truly happen. I hope I am proven wrong.
    I still love and believe in my Catholic faith, and believe that God is still with us, and if we are faithful He will bring us through this crisis. I pray for God’s guidance for all, for His protection over the true priests who remain loyal to the priesthood throughout, and for His strength that we may all remain true to our faith.
    Judy R.

  7. Father Mark,you are truly a shining light in this dark era of our beloved Church and I want to Thank You for your truthfulness.I can only speak for myself, but I applaud you and agree with the others– you are awesome!!

  8. Dear Father Mark: I am so disappointed that the priests at the meeting did not broach the subject and talk about it. Are they afraid? I don’t understand! What a perfect opportunity gone to waste.
    We admire you for having the guts to voice your feelings.
    What is being done to end this scandal? I suppose nothing. Perhaps they hope it will go away. How disappointing.
    Do they realize that people are leaving the church, that they cut their contributions, that some of those who thought about becoming catholic have changed their mind? Do they care? Maybe not. Thanks, Lori

  9. I found your blog randomly, and it’s really helped me. I’m glad to know that you are honestly looking for answers. I pray for you and for priests every day at Mass. Christ is in you as a priest, and as a Catholic faithful I still see him there.

  10. Our Church has been infiltrated with those who want to destroy Her, remove Her ornaments, and, finery, and, dash her to pieces. But God has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against Her. It will be rough going for awhile. ‘They’ the hierarchy (perhaps consisting of most of the perpetrators) own the buildings and the land (at least the legal papers say so) but there is no Church for them without the faithful. The voice of Archbishop Vigano thunders the truth and turns on light. God bless you, Father Mark White for your help with your writing. As T Ham says “Christ is in you as a priest” I too see Him there and that is the way it is supposed to be.

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